Monday, July 30, 2007

KILLER Q&A: BRETT BATTLES

We turn the spotlight on suspense novelist Brett Battles, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007. His debut novel is The Cleaner (Delacorte Press):

When a freelance professional "cleaner" Jonathan Quinn takes on his latest job, it seems simple enough: investigate a suspicious case of arson in Colorado. But the case takes a turn for the worse and soon Quinn is leapfrogging continents, trying to find out why someone wants him dead -- and if it's linked to a larger attempt to wipe out his employer. His only hope may be a woman from his past who's reluctant to help -- but who may hold the key to solving the case. ...

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HOW HAVE YOUR "KILLER YEAR" CLASSMATES HELPED YOU THROUGH THIS CAMPAIGN?
The coolest thing is that here we are a group of people going through the exact same thing together. We've all written novels, we've sold them, and now we're all debuting in 2007. We're all going through the same stages, the same ups and downs. There's always someone a little ahead of you to talk to, or a little behind who you can help.

I think in the past, authors often traveled the road to being published alone. We've taken a decidedly different route.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
Ugh -- because of the day job, I have to find time outside of Monday through Friday 8:30 to 6:00. I've done something to make it easier for me, though. I purposely moved into a place that is only a 10 minute walk to my work. (I should point out I live in L.A., the land where no one walks anywhere, let alone work.) This buys me back a lot of wasted commute time. Plus I'm not as worn out in the evenings.

So here's what I do: Monday through Friday: up by 5:30. Writing from 6:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Monday through Wednesday: after work go to Starbucks or the old Fairfax Farmers' Market and write from 6:30 until 8 or 8:30. Weekends: I try to get 6 hours in each day when possible. I usually do it in two shifts of 3 hours ­, one first thing in the morning, and one in the late afternoon.

Any time that's left I read or sleep. I guess eating is in there some time, too. Though occasionally I write and eat at the same time. I'm talented that way.

AS A READER, WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?
Sadly, to pick it up it needs to either have a good cover or I have to have heard of it or the author before. The "good cover" part probably sounds shallow, but it's what makes a book stand out on the shelf. I know there are tons of good books with lousy covers that I've missed. Those with bad covers that I haven't missed were mainly do to recommendations or foreknowledge of the book/author.

That's only the first step, though. What keeps me in a book? Three things: writing, characters and story. If it's well written and has interesting characters with a story that intrigues me, I'm in until the end. Have two out of the three, I'll probably read the whole thing, also. Less chance if there is only one of the three. None? I'm putting the book down by the end of the first chapter, and often by the end of the first page.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
If you're going to be an author, and that's what your really want, be in it for the long haul. Commit yourself to not worrying everyday about when are you going to get published. Just keep pounding away. Keep writing and improving your craft. Keep sending out queries. Keep learning more and more about the business. But never, ever give up.

I heard recently that the average published author was at it for 10 years and had written four books before getting their first one published. Don't know if that's true, and, yes, everyone is different. But, oddly, that is almost exactly what happened to me. Eleven years focusing on writing, and while THE CLEANER was actually the third book I'd written, I was just finishing my fourth when I got the call that THE CLEANER had sold.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
Writing's hard. And, no, not everyone can write a book.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
I guess ­ and this is more for certain writers than others ­ I wish they realized that the community of writers is a great thing. There are so many people out there who have traveled in the footsteps we are now traveling in. We shouldn't be afraid to use that resource, to talk to other writers. The good thing is, I think this is happening more and more.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PUBLISHING THROUGH THIS "KILLER YEAR" CAMPAIGN?
That even though publishing has been around for centuries, no one really knows what makes a book sell. So with that in mind, we've taken it on ourselves to find new and interesting ways to promote our books by working as a team. It's amazing how many people I hear from who say, "Wow, that's a great idea. I'm surprised no one ever thought of it before." The truth is, so am I.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
The process of both writing and getting your book published is easier when there are others who have either gone through or are going through the same thing who you can talk to.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
I'm constantly learning things about my craft: from the other Killer Year members, from the books I read, from my editor, and just from writing. I hope to always be learning about my craft. I don't ever want to get to that point where I think I know it all. That's just stupid. Nobody knows it all. And learning is what keeps us mentally alive.

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Thanks to suspense novelist Brett Battles. Find him online at BrettBattles.com, and at his blog, The Sphere.

You can also find more at the Killer Year website, the Killer Year blog and the Killer Year MySpace page.

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Related links:
KILLER Q&A: BILL CAMERON (Lost Dog)
KILLER Q&A: MARC LECARD (Vinnie's Head)
KILLER Q&A: GREGG OLSEN (A Wicked Snow)
KILLER Q&A: PATRY FRANCIS (The Liar's Diary)
KILLER Q&A: ROBERT GREGORY BROWNE (Kiss Her Goodbye)
KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY (The Blade Itself)
KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER (Big City, Bad Blood)
KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN (Suspicious Circumstances)
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year

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